Oh, The Faces We Know!
As I have written many other times, I was fortunate to grow up with several genealogical mentors who would show me old photos of our family and not only name the folks in the photo, but also tell me stories about them. For some reason, starting at a very young age, I enjoyed learning about these members of the family, some of them from long ago.
Last Sunday, Linda and I attended the O’Hara reunion held just outside Carlisle, PA. Linda’s great grandmother was Emma (O’Hara) Gutshall who died in 1915. Linda’s grandfather (Roy Gutshall, Sr., son of Emma and Abraham Gutshall) died in 1929 when his son Roy Jr., Linda’s father, was only 9 years old. Because of that and some other circumstances (one being that Linda’s father was a Lutheran minister, who had various church charges in central Pennsylvania) the family did not keep in close contact with their genealogical roots, especially the O’Hara family.
A few years ago while researching on Ancestry.com, I came across Maureen (O’Hara) Warick who is the family genealogist for Linda’s O’Hara family. We connected and finally, last Sunday at the O’Hara reunion, Linda and I met Maureen and other O’Hara cousins. We were welcomed by the family, made new friends with the O’Hara family, and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. We look forward to strengthening the relationship with this wonderful Irish American family which we can now truly call family.
A week or so before attending the reunion, we went through some old photos. Linda and I tried to identify her great grandmother, Emma O’Hara, in these. We have three photos of her great grandfather, Abraham Gutshall, who was married to Emma O’Hara. All three photos are of family gatherings with many people pictured. The first, which I’ll reference as #1, was taken after 1915 because there is no wife pictured with Abraham. We have identified everyone else in the photo: five of Abraham and Emma’s seven sons, their two daughters, spouses, and three grandchildren.
In photo #2, probably taken about 1900 is another large family gathering of which we can positively identify Abraham (he always sports a bushy mustache and has a distinctive face). Behind him stands a lady whom we believed to be his wife, Emma O’Hara. In photo #3, Abraham is sitting with his sons and daughters, and the same woman from #2 photo is sitting beside him. This photo was certainly taken after #2 and probably only a year or so before photo #1. Through the process of identifying the people we know and knowing the years when certain events took place, we can now identify Emma (O’Hara) Gutshall.
However, there may be another, even more positive way to identify the face of Linda’s great grandmother. At the O’Hara reunion we met Maureen’s uncle, George (Sonny) O’Hara. George has some old photos of the O’Hara’s which picture his grandfather, George O’Hara, and others of the family. There is a good chance that old George O’Hara’s sister, Emma, is on one or more of those photos. That likeness can then be matched to the photos that we have of Emma (O’Hara) Gutshall. This may seem like a lot of details, reasoning, and work just to identify one person’s likeness. But, that is what genealogists do; and, we do it for many reasons two of which are: to preserve the memory of those who have passed on and to pass on the family history to future generations.
Matching likenesses of ancestors and relatives from photo to photo is something I learned long ago when I sat, as a boy, with Bernice Bogart, Mary Beaver, Bruice, Andy, and Julia, Harold Sechler, and others who enjoyed sharing their memories with me. Andrew and I attempt to cut out the guesswork when looking at photos of relatives by making note of people’s likenesses and also writing about them in this forum. And, not to sound like a broken record, but mark your photos with names, dates, places and circumstances.